Aaniin, today on Rezidivism I would like to talk about Turning Points. At the beginning of my Recovery in 2010, I had been in prison for a year and had 2 1/2 years to go. I had no intention on ever giving up using in my life. I was playing the game that "all indians" play and thought that if I never gave into the "system" I would have won. Nothing in my mind ever made me think that the game I was playing was really playing right into American Society's hand. I was doing what they wanted me to do; lose my language, culture, teaching, my identity as an Anishinaabe. Fighting their system is what I was taught in school. The only time they would mention indians was usually around Thanksgiving where they gave this strange overview that I knew in my spirit was untrue but lacked the comprehension of true history to know the difference. In these accounts were stories of brave warriors like Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. They talked about how resilient they were and brave, how they stood up for their way of life. But, they also talked about how they were imprisoned and eventually killed. Digging deep into my subconscious I was able to identify 2 core beliefs that led my thought processes just based on this little bit of information.
1. To be brave, resilient and stand for my people I need to be incarcerated.
2. Being incarcerated is the consequence for bravery, resilience and standing for my people.
There was no other way to be brave and resilient but to go to prison. There was no way to get to prison unless I led a life of crime. Going to prison is an act of resilience. So I thought.....
All of this I know now to be untrue, I wish I knew another way back then but I do believe that it is my purpose to share this idea so our people can believe TRUE acts of bravery and resilience from our people. To have a new understanding of why Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull did what they did.
At the beginning of 2010, I was trying to hustle a prison treatment program. I was BS'n my way through and it was catching up to me. I was on the verge of being kicked out. I was failing and my BS was stankin really good. Everyone can smell it but me. Mentally, I wanted to quit and end things like a man, on my own terms, I couldn't let them tell me what to do. I was fed up with my counselor, peers, core group and everyone in life. I can't even imagine what I was putting the mother of my boys through at the time. Emotionally, I did not even know how to feel so I let it be anger. Physically, I was not healthy at all, I was eating junk and not exercising. I was in poor physical condition. Spiritually, I was lost but today as I look back, the Manidoog were taking their time with me. The Brick Wall was coming fast and I knew that I had to get some extra BS in order to weasel my way over it.
My rewards for finishing treatment were that I did not have to do treatment after prison and I can get moved to Minimum where I can earn $1/hr and order pizza every week. If I had to do treatment when I got out then whatever but Pizza......... I could not pass up the opportunity to get pizza so they were going to have to kick me out. I was hitting this brick wall when I decided that my life was in need of change.
In April of 2010, I was at my wits end with treatment and I knew I needed to make one last kick before I either quit or got kicked out. It was Victim Impact week in Lino Lakes Correctional Facility and we got to hear from volunteers about their stories. I do not remember any names but a few days into it, my life changed. I come across and was aware of this turning point. Whether or not the Manidoog thought it was my time or I was finally conscious of something more than myself, I do not know. Most likely both.
A man pushed his friend, another man in a wheelchair, onto the stage. He was hit by a drunk driver. I thought to myself, if I were to write a good paper on this topic, my treatment would be saved and I can have pizza by the end of the year. He talked about how he was out walking and out of no where a car hit him. The aftermath was incredible. Having to re-learn how to move, talk, look were some good points that I selfishly devoured to try my hand at empathy. I definitely was going to have one up on the system once this paper was written and I was already thinking of ways to relay these ideas in the next group.
Turning Point: the realization that the man that hit him and put him in the wheelchair was the same man that pushed his wheelchair on stage.
The instance of a lightbulb over my head does not fully express the feelings I had rushing over me at that moment. Through their talk about recovery; the wheelchair guy's and the other guy's recovery; they talked about how they became friends. This was an instance that is outside my normal thought process. Heck NO, I would not become friends with the person who put my in a wheelchair and NO I would not become friends with someone I hit with a car due to the need to maintain a tough guy appearance. Hearing them talk about forgiveness to the other and to themselves floored me. In that instant I was the guy in the wheelchair, hindered by societal impaired actions and handicapped by historical trauma. Poor Me. The realization was that I was the person that put me in that mental wheelchair is the point where I decided no more. I was ultimately responsible for my current situation given the impairments and genocidal symptoms that are constantly a part of Indigenous Life.
All of the drugs, violence and lifestyle were a product of my absorption of truths untold, of lies believed and acceptance of uncertainty to which my ancestors would warn us through dreams, visions and traditional stories. That is the reason why I get goosebumps when I am engulfed in the beat of the drum, the sound of the jingle dress and the Ojibwe Language. The ancestors knew we have access to unlimited spiritual energy and through their prayers they always cast them forward. Which in my understanding of the structure in an Invocation we always remember the past, give energy to the present and send the power generations ahead so they can be influenced by our actions today.
I had to understand that what happened to us as a people is a sad story. And, with all stories about our people, they are steeped with resilience, bravery and standing up for our way of life. How will our stories of Recovery save those in the future? Much like the way of stories of our finest warriors shaped our perception of the world today. I know now that Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse would not want people imprisoned, hurt or killed for being brave, resilient. They would want people to have access to a way of life, energy beyond understanding and compassion which was enveloped in our traditional interpersonal characteristics. Today, I know more than I did and aim to help more just like I did.
We will further get into this topic and look forward to hearing your stories.
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